VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol has devised a lot of successful combinations this season.
Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.
But the Flyers' coach is not about to take credit for the unique and rather quirky pairing of Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny.
Oh, they have chemistry alright, even though it has nothing to do with the head coach’s line combinations.
Konecny and Patrick’s bond started to become apparent once they began sharing a hotel room on road trips.
“I started with Provorov and then a few guys got called up and then we switched off and we started rooming together,” Patrick said Wednesday. “It just kind of happened. We have a really good relationship and it’s been lots of fun.”
Patrick can’t put his finger on it precisely, but a rough estimate for when it happened would be sometime around the holidays when the Flyers were laboring through a 1-2-1 stretch not long after their six-game winning streak.
Conveniently, their “buddy system” has spilled over into the locker room whether it’s a routine day of practice, a morning skate or a thrilling overtime win. If they’re at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, or in the visitor’s locker room of the opposition’s arena, the nameplates of Konecny and Patrick are always right next to each other. The two bang into each other while also expressing this juvenile sense of humor that only they seem to understand.
Watching their behavior is reminiscent of the days of spit wads, wet willies and flicking your best friend in the ear lobe — at least in my generation.
“He probably brings out the immaturity in me a little bit,” Patrick said. “He’s a really funny guy and I don’t know if he ever runs out of energy. He’s always talking 24/7. He’s just a pretty funny guy.”
These kind of relationships are commonly formed in college dormitories, but Patrick and Konecny are forging that bond now at hockey’s highest level. Patrick always knew about Konecny and vice versa, but considering Patrick played in the Western Hockey League and Konecny was honing his skills in the Ontario Hockey League, their paths never crossed until the Flyers drafted Patrick this past summer.
“It developed right when I got here,” Patrick said. “He was a super nice guy to me when I got here. He made me feel welcomed here.”
They’re now the odd couple with a lot in common. Obviously passionate about hockey, they also share a love of the outdoors whether it’s hunting or fishing, and they apparently possess a sense of humor that Beavis and Butt-Head would seem to appreciate, especially with their movie selections.
“They’re just stupid, funny movies,” Patrick said. “A lot of guys give it to us that they’re the dumbest movies ever. We just cry laughing watching them.”
“I feel like I’m quoting their movies as much as they are,” Jordan Weal said. “It’s pretty funny when you see those two getting together. It’s fun to join in and get the banter going. It’s a 19 and a 20-year-old kid. They’re having a lot of fun, they’re playing really well. They’re getting to room together on the road all over the country. They’re having fun right now and it’s good to see.”
It should come as little surprise that both Patrick and Konecny have elevated their play since they became road trip roommates. Konecny has torn it up on a line with Giroux and Couturier, and Patrick has become much more assertive offensively over the past few weeks and is now centering Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. Following Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Carolina, Patrick was awarded the Rick Flair “Nature Boy” robe as the game’s top player for the first time this season, and when Patrick scored the game-tying goal with 2.6 seconds remaining against the Senators, Konecny rushed over to celebrate.
The Patrick-Konecny dynamic is a reminder throughout this intensity-filled season with the tension and stress that comes in the constant battle for playoff positioning, they’re still just kids enjoying a kid’s game.
Wednesday morning was another optional skate that many veterans sat out in an effort to rest their bodies, but Patrick and Konecny were right there along with the healthy scratches from the previous night.
“Sometimes when you get in late and you've got to come to the rink the next day and have a practice, it’s always nice to have guys who keep it loose and keep it light to lift the spirits up a bit,” Weal said.
“That’s a hard thing to do. There are expectations among everybody individually,” Hakstol said. “There are a lot of things that go into being positive and productive when you come to the rink. Those two guys continue to grow together and the fact that they can help each other in doing that a little bit, I think that’s a positive. If those two young guys can draw off one another, that’s good for our team.”